André Leon Talley remembered by Naomi Campbell | Fashion

For those who knew André, he anointed people by showing up for them, no matter what. He not only pushed you to be the best version of yourself, he also taught you how to do it.

For many of us starting off in the fashion industry in the 80s, André was often our voice when we felt like we didn’t have one. As an editor and then creative director at US Vogue, he’d ask our questions and advocate on our behalf until we learned how to do so for ourselves. If we were down, he would extend a helping hand. If we couldn’t get through a door, he’d push it open for us.

His belief that the world was for the taking was contagious and it propelled us beyond our boundaries. It was André who encouraged me to pick up the phone and call Anna Wintour and ask for my first American Vogue September issue cover. It was in September 1989.

When I started the Fashion for Relief charity in 2005 it was to raise money to help survivors of Hurricane Katrina, and I had to organise a catwalk show in the span of a week. André stood right by my side throughout the whole process. When faced with an obstacle, he would say: “I know it’s seven days, Omi, but it can be done.” He was right – and the charity is going strong 17 years later.

André’s influence wasn’t just within the fashion industry. It spread worldwide to include film, music, arts and culture.

André Leon Talley with Naomi Campbell at her birthday party in 2016.
André Leon Talley with Naomi Campbell at her birthday party in 2016. Photograph: Neil Rasmus/Neil Rasmus/

In April 2019, André joined me for Fashion Week in Lagos, a trip everyone said he wasn’t well enough to undertake. But again, he showed up for me. There he was, wheelchair and all, cloaked like a Nigerian king, with creatives sitting at his feet listening to his wisdom. When we went to church in Lagos that Easter Sunday, he told me that coming to Africa was like an epiphany for him.

“Luxury,” he once said, “is to be able to take control of one’s life, health and the pursuit of happiness in a way that is joyful.” During the seasonal fashion weeks, André would dress up hotel rooms to his liking, creating a “home away from home”. Nothing was ever amiss. He would drape his space in furs, materials and candles, bringing along his own china and glassware. Wherever he sat had an air of luxury, even if we were just sat in bed, ordering room service and watching TV.

André lit up rooms, seized every opportunity, and made sure everyone around him understood they could do the same. It’s that legacy, that love for every moment, that will endure longer than the years he spent on this Earth. He will always be my chosen family, and I miss him dearly. Just as he brightened every room he entered on this Earth, I know he’s lighting up heaven right now, sitting on his well-deserved throne. Fly high, king, now and for ever!

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